(LOS ANGELES) — First responders in Los Angeles County say they were able to rescue a man who drove off a 400-foot cliff on Friday after receiving an alert triggered by his phone.
The driver, who rescuers found at the bottom of a ravine, was “bleeding profusely” but survived the incident, according to Mike Leum, a search and rescue group leader for the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
“The majority of calls we get there over the sides usually are fatal,” Leum told ABC News about the crash site, which was off a windy road along Mount Wilson.
Volunteer search and rescue responders with the LA County Sheriff’s Department first received a report about the crash around 11 p.m. on Friday.
Leum said dispatchers learned about the incident due to the driver’s iPhone 14 crash detection program. Recent iPhones and Apple Watches have a program that automatically alerts authorities if the phone’s sensors suggest the device’s owner might be in a crash or hard fall.
“We’re talking about hundreds of miles of mountain roads where these people could have gone over the side,” Leum said about the incident on Friday and other similar incidents involving the crash detection program. “So I’m not convinced that they would have ever been found.”
Locating the car’s skid marks and a damaged guardrail, rescuers were eventually able to make audio contact with the driver, according to Leum. Once they located him at the bottom of the 400-foot cliff, rescuers used an airlift to send the driver to a local trauma center.
The driver’s car, found pancaked at the bottom of the ravine, was unrecognizable, according to Leum. Apart from the head laceration, the driver had no other major injuries such as broken bones, he said.
The California Highway Patrol could not be immediately reached about the cause of the crash.
“This guy on Friday would have bled out,” Leum said about the severity of his injuries.
Apple released its crash detection feature in September 2022, though its rollout was followed by some reports about false positive alerts issued by the device. While users can cancel the alert within 20 seconds of the perceived crash, some alerts were reported to have accidentally contacted authorities while users were riding roller coasters or skiing.
An Apple representative told ABC News that the company is aware of the reported issues and have rolled out multiple software updates to reduce the number of false positives. Leum added that his department has worked with the company to prevent such instances.
Leum cited at least four victims he believes rescuers would not have been able to reach in time but for the crash detection program.
“Nobody saw the crashes, so who knows how long it would have taken for someone to file a missing person report and for some agency to backtrack and try and locate these people,” he said.
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